Once upon a time in America, soda was special—a treat served in cute 8- to 12-ounce glass bottles or cans with old-fashioned labels and long-lost flavors—not something to gulp down with no more thought than you would pay water. It was rationed to kids like a controlled substance—saved for special occasions or served in small doses over crushed ice to soothe upset stomachs. For kids in households like mine, soda was something illicit—sure to rot your teeth and turn you into that fat kid from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory who fell into the chocolate river. We craved it all the more because we weren't allowed to have it very often.
Located in a quaint-as-punch downtown district of Vancouver, Wash., Moxie's on Main Street has been celebrating all things carbonated and sweet since last December, when owner Peter Hatcher turned a former coffee shop into a pop mecca. Selling more than 300 kinds of specialty sodas, Moxie's has choices that run the gamut from "limited edition" Coca-Cola and historic, regional small-batch sodas (Hatcher's favorite is North Carolina's "cherry Dr. Pepper"-flavored Cheerwine) to unique international sodas that are hard to find in the States. These include sodas one finds in sunny vacationlands, like grapefruit Ting from Jamaica, or several varieties of Italian bitter, lemon or even espresso-flavored drinks. Moxie's even carries Almdudler Krauterlimonade, "the national soft drink of Austria." Of course, it also sells the famous Moxie brand, which is the oldest continually produced soda in the U.S., dating back to 1884.
Moxie's store itself is a melting pot of kids and adults poring over the wall of fully stocked, full-sized glass coolers. On one visit, Gary and Mary Ellen Schneider, an elderly couple who drove from Clackamas just to check out Moxie's wares, were showing off their nearly 30 years' worth of soda memorabilia—neatly photographed and cataloged in a large three-ring binder.
Moxie's is also the first store in the U.S. to stock soda from the re-established Pop Shoppe, a unique little chain that cut out the middleman and sold their own brand of sodas. Pop Shoppe is fondly remembered by many who grew up with it in the '70s—it was a sponsor for the Ramblin' Rod kids' show on KPTV—lucky audience members got to take home a four-pack.
In an age where childhood obesity is on the rise and corn syrup is one of the devil's foods, a whole store that focuses on nothing but soda might seem criminal. Yet the good life is not about choosing between all or nothing; it's about treats in small doses and making the everyday into something special. Everyone needs sugar and bubbles in their life, sometimes.